Archbishop claims atheism is cause of poverty.

In this Episcopal News Service article the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, puts forth a call for greater cooperation between Christians and Muslims to “forge a new vision of a prosperous society to challenge the orthodoxies of the global economy.” In short, he thinks both groups should work together on ending poverty. Certainly an honorable enough goal even if the article makes it sound like he plans to do this by redefining what it means to be wealthy more so than actually providing the poor with more opportunities to earn money. Still it wasn’t anything I would normally have much to complain about until I got to the following statement:

“We know where the roots of poverty lie—in the refusal to accept the meaning that God gives the world, a refusal which shows itself not only in atheism but also in the anxious and greedy spirit that cannot see the human context of economic activity,” he said.

What the fuck? Now we’re responsible for poverty in addition to the laundry list of other problems these sanctimonious assholes like to pin on us? The Archbishop obviously doesn’t spend too much time around very many atheists (probably afraid he might learn something) as I can attest first hand to how generous many of us really are. As of late I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the generosity of many atheists and agnostics who visit this site daily not to mention plenty of believers as well. But my own situation is hardly a significant example of putting the lie to the Archbishop’s claim. I know many atheists who volunteer their time and resources toward the goal of ending poverty quite often working alongside many people of faith in the process.

You don’t have to believe in God(s) to have a sense of compassion for your fellow man or the desire to lend them a helping hand. I think it’s a shame that some people such as the Archbishop truly feel that only through the threat of punishment by an angry sky fairy will people be moved to give a shit about each other. We’re all in this together and the more we help each other the more likely we all are to benefit.

24 thoughts on “Archbishop claims atheism is cause of poverty.

  1. … the refusal to accept the meaning that God gives the world, a refusal which shows itself not only in atheism but also in the anxious and greedy spirit that cannot see the human context of economic activity.

    I don’t see this so much as blaming poverty on atheists, but in claiming that “the anxious and greedy spirit that cannot see the human context of economic activity” is indicative of “the refusal to accept the meaning that God gives the world.”  Which is quite a bit less offensive (and, in a Christian context, both provocative and orthodox).  Treating economics and morally/ethically value-neutral ignores what economic policies do to individuals, and so ignores the value that humans, as God’s creation, have, something worth far more than money.

    The structure of the sentence is actually “A comes from X, because X leads not only to B, but also to to C.  The link is between A and C, not an equivalence (except in origin) between A and B.

    Now, I certainly agree with you that there are atheists and agnostics whose charity and giving to others is as significant and noble as that of believers (moreso, perhaps, since believers, Christians at least, are commanded to be charitible and giving).  The Archbishop has an accurate if convoluted definition of atheism here (“the refusal to accept the meaning that God gives the world,” stemming, of course, from not believing in God), and his conflation of items in the quote you’ve pulled (I’ve not read the article) is unfortunate.  But parsing it, I don’t see the calumny you’re reading into it, except insofar as it says that “It is people who don’t believe in God, and the value of God’s creation [whether they profess to be believers or not] who are responsible for poverty.”

    Hrm.  I should probably read the article as a whole.

  2. He says that “modern Western person” has been cut off from any meaning to their lives by “relentless messages about consumer gratification”, and I do agree with that.

    However, meaning to one’s life may not be provided by religion. It is for many people. But for just as many, it is *not*.

    He implies that a lack of visible religion contributes to the lost, meaningless feeling that so many people have, and that visible religion would make many people feel less lost. I don’t agree with that.

    I think that he’s trying to equate spiritual poverty and material poverty. Certainly many folks would be better off if they didn’t feel the burning need to get the bigger-better-faster-newer thing every other month. However, I don’t know that removing that omnipresent want would necessarily make people more inclined to give alms.

    Then there’s the problem recently faced in Asia, in the aftermath of the tsunami: those regions turned away donations because of their experiences with overzealous prostelytizers. You could eat if you renounced what you believed in, essentially. That wasn’t an issue of the people all over the world not opening their hearts and wallets and donating. I’m sure that some of the people who donated to the relief effort did so by putting off some luxuries, or even scrimping on necessities for themself. It was the concerns of the people of Bandah Aceh for the state of their and their children’s souls, and their knowing that the food offered freely by many of us…wouldn’t be delivered without a price.

    In the final paragraph in that article, I think what he’s trying to say is that:

    * atheists refuse to see Ghod as the creator of the universe, and thus as the most important factor in the universe
    * many people today refuse to see Ghod as the most important factor in the universe, and have instead placed consumerism and acquisition of material things above Ghod

    Bad sentence parsing. No cookie.

    Of course, it is only a short step from there to “atheism causes people to be greedy and unloving” and the author of the piece could always simply say that they were misinterpreted.

  3. Very ironic!  I just watched the latest installment of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! last night titled Holier Than Thou.  They talk about so-called enlightened spiritual leaders such as Gandhi, Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.  Mother Teresa said: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot… the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”  They showed quite a few interviews and quotes from her stating that she needed the poor and dying to be that way in order for them to be more ‘enlightened’.  When people came to her ‘Homes for the Dying’, they could not leave, and could not have visitors.  Even family.  They were forced to stay on cot’s crammed next to each other and had to go the bathroom in the corner in front of everyone.

    Hypocrites.

  4. I would imagine so, yes. Perhaps I should join my local church, so I’m not assaulted by moths every time I open my wallet.  Although, last church my friends family checked out (they just moved to the South Island, they want a ten percent slice of their income-flavoured pie…

  5. This is a statement I’d expect from the catholic church.  Seems to me they’ve done much more than their share over the centuries to help keep millions mired in poverty in their denial and preaching of “no birth control even though you already have 182 kids and no hope of a job in your third-world country.”

    And don’t get me started on that “saint” Mother Theresa.  Not really a very nice little troll, in my opinion.

  6. Whatever!…Let_the_creeps_believe_whatever_they_want!…I_could_care_less.(not_meaning_to_stifle_conversation_though!)

  7. Let’s not forget that the biggest philanthropist in history (Bill Gates) is also an atheist.  To me religion seems like more of a means to justify why people have very little and not a means to further oneself economically.  That will be taken care of in the next life. 

    There is no need to ‘accept’ ones lot in life.  And rather than going to church and giving your money to them, one can start a business that will provide jobs.  That is trully helpful to society.  And god doesn’t even need to be involved to make that happen.

  8. to no believe in god and to go against god is just about the most uninteeligent thing a person can do..when you consider what is said may happen if you go against god..it jsut isn’t worth the risk. We are merely here to be tested and to search for the truth. But it seems when ever someone wants to do something good and loving there has always been some sort of opposition. If we all simply accept god and accept love and walk the path to god, things will be fine…therefore all children should be allowed to start with that knowledge from the beginning, when they are deprived of that from the start is when things go wrong in their lives….Please..keep prayer in schools.let children learn about god,search for god love and truth from the beginning of their lives. They are born from god, they live because of god, and when their body passes away, they will return to God…so let them start on the right path from the beginning.

  9. Yeah, and your spelling and grammar are such testaments to your massive “intelligence”.  Because by all means, the “truth” can only be found in a stupid book written 1,700 years ago.  Please forgive me (as I’m sure you’re privy to, since you’re a “God-fearing” Christian and all) for this tantrum which I am about to unleash, as you Fundamentalists have been repeatedly torturing me with your religious diatribe on what used to be reliable news sources (and government), now infiltrated with the idiocy you all exhibit with your churches and your evangelical programs:

    GO FUCK YOURSELF, YOU STUPID, MINDLESS, INCONSIDERATE, OVERBEARING BLEEDING CUNTS!!  TAKE YOUR OUTDATED, REDUNDANT, REDICULOUS BIBLE AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ALREADY PROLAPSED ASSHOLES!!  AND SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU FUCKING MORONS, LEST I TAKE YOUR CROSSES AND SHOVE THEM DOWN YOUR PREACHING THROATS HORIZONTALLY!!!

    Whoo!  That was a bit uncharacteristic of me, wasn’t it?  I’d tell you to go to Hell as well, but that’d be kinda hypocritical (and contrary to what you may believe, a thinking person like myself abhors hypocrisy).  I think I got my message across anyway.

    Toodles!

  10. Oh, and by the way Dave, that last outburst means no offense to you with respect to your beliefs.  I respect every person of any religion who upholds the secular values of this country with the knowledge that they have every right to live their lives as religiously as they’d like to, without drowning everyone else with their theologies.

    America is not a theocracy!  As a nation, we have to all realize that together to uphold the basic rights of EVERYONE here.  And everyone else (as aforementioned) can, and should, go fuck themselves.  Preferably in a different country.

  11. youwouldn’t believemeitItoldyou

    Oh goody. Trolls Time!

    You’re right.  We don’t believe it.

    Why is it that so many people that insist prayer be “kept” in the schools have poor spelling, crappy grammar and little cognitive reasoning skills? 

    And what child or adult has EVER been stopped from praying ANYWHERE they like, any time they like, TO THEMSELVES.  Prayer does not have to spewed all over innocent bystanders to be effective.

  12. I think it should be a crime to indoctrinate children into religion. If they want to believe silly things when they are an adult, fine. But to kneecap their critcal thinking skills right out of the gate seem so unfair to me.

  13. Aren’t nuns and other related holy people supposed to take a vow of poverty? Shouldn’t the church be saying stuff like “You have no need to worry about money as long as you trust in Holy Mary Mother of God and Baby Jesus ‘n all them!”

    Bah! More likely the root of poverty is the greedy catholic church and the other hypocritical churches spending millions of dollars on over the top houses of worship for people who drive Mercedes SUV’s and wear $400 Prada shoes every Sunday.
    Sketchy Mess Jeoffory – Poverty… my anti drug.

  14. I’ve been thinking about this lately.  Let’s say that the Fundies manage to take _complete_ control of the country and turn the nation into a God-fearing theocracy.  What would be taught in school?  The arts would disappear completely.  The sciences would be gutted quite a bit—after all, too much knowledge leads to questions.  History would be completely rewritten.  I can see kids getting a sixth grade level education—just enough to function—what more would they need to remain sheep?

    I’be been thinking about this myself.  I find it unlikely, however.  Chances are better that they take over towns here and there and possibly some of the southern states.  The problem that arises with this is that as these states get taken over, the people with half a brain in their heads will leave, thereby raising the number of us in other states. 

    If (and it is a huge if) they were able to take over the country, then I suspect that myself and many others would not be here for it.  There are plenty of other places to live in this world.  Besides, what do you think a theocracy in this country would do to the economy?  I wouldn’t be good.

  15. Besides, what do you think a theocracy in this country would do to the economy?  I wouldn’t be good.

    Oh Chad, you obviously didn’t read what Dr. Williams said:  atheism is what causes poverty.  If America became a theocracy, why, everyone would just be rollin’ in dough!  The good lord wouldn’t let his flock suffer.

    —Joe   LOL

  16. The corporations kick you down, the government puts its boot on your neck, and the church teaches you to love it. It’s the circle of life young Simba.

  17. Eric, you have hit the nail SO sqaurely on the head it hurts.  When you are lead to believe that a better life awaits you, why bother fixing what is so obviously wrong with the one you’re in? 

    *And so the great flaw in religion was exposed.  Azumith, pleased with his work, retired to his mansion, to sleep contentedly on a huge pile of atheistic money.*

  18. Since the theistic view leads to prosperity, the Middle Ages must have been very prosperous, no?

    Who talked about others than rich royals and catholic church?

    S-ReligionPoor.jpg
    Ability of rich elite to keep their fortunes has always depended on how well common people (and information) have been controlled.

  19. “A mn’s [sic] ethical behavior should be based on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”

    Albert Einstein (Ideas and Opinions, p. 39)

  20. Conflating several responses …

    When you are lead to believe that a better life awaits you, why bother fixing what is so obviously wrong with the one you’re in?

    Um … because you’ve been told to?

    While there may well be Christians who use their faith in the Afterlife as an excuse for sitting on their asses, Jesus’s teaching runs counter to that (the Parable of the Talents, as an example, not to mention the Golden Rule).  Christians are called upon to “fix what is so obviously wrong with” the world.

    That so many do so little (or, in fact, seem to contribute to the wrongness) is certainly to Christianity’s shame, as well as to the shame of those individuals.

    Oh, and by the way Dave, that last outburst means no offense to you with respect to your beliefs. I respect every person of any religion who upholds the secular values of this country with the knowledge that they have every right to live their lives as religiously as they’d like to, without drowning everyone else with their theologies.

    Don’t worry—we’re also called upon to turn the other cheek, too. grin  Though watch the anti-woman epithets …

    Since the theistic view leads to prosperity, the Middle Ages must have been very prosperous, no?

    The point that the Archbishop is making is that charity—broadly defined, and including the idea of “economic justice”—is a demonstration of one’s living (vs professed) belief in the value and meaning of humanity as God’s creation.  (It may, as discussion here has noted, be a demonstration of other noble beliefs as well, but the point is that greediness, selfishness, and indifference are incompatible with true Christian values, regardless of how many Christians fall short of that mark).

    So implying that the ostensibly Christian kingdoms of Europe’s Middle Ages were not “prosperous” is sort of meaningless (even if “prosperity” is only couched as “having lots of money”), any more than noting that the avowedly atheistic regime of the People’s Republic of China means that one can draw conclusions about atheism and morality from its actions.

  21. Seems to me that some use WWJD – What Would Jesus Do, while others prefer WWGDITOT – What Would God Do In The Old Testament.

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